Stab Magazine | WSL Competitors Seek Scoring Transparency, Including An Audio/Video Feed Of Judges’ Booth

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WSL Competitors Seek Scoring Transparency, Including An Audio/Video Feed Of Judges’ Booth

Gossip Girl’s on the case. 

news // Dec 2, 2018
Words by Gossip Girl.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

In a recent meeting between the WSL and World Professional Surfers (WPS)*, some CT surfers in attendance (there were 27 in total) questioned the importance and validity of the WSL’s Head Judge position.

According to notes from the WSL/WPS meeting, the WSL’s Deputy-Commissioner Renato Hickel defended the position, explaining that, “The Head Judge is the maestro, who conducts the orchestra.”

For those who don’t know, the WSL’s judging system works something like this:

  • In CT competition, there are five “official” judges who put down an individual score (between 0-10) for each wave surfed. These judges are separated by partitions and are meant to have zero communication with one another. 

  • Waves are scored in relation to others in the same singular heat, and are based on the day’s scoring criteria, which is developed by the Head Judge and texted to all competitors and judges before the day begins. 

  • Separate from these five “official” judges is the Head Judge, who oversees the five judges’ decisions but does not put down a score of his own.

  • The widely accepted theory (though not verified by the WSL) is that each of the five judges writes down their initial impression of a wave on a piece of paper. Then, before the judges can input their official score to the computer, the Head Judge looks at all five scores to see if anybody is dramatically too high or too low, at which point he either gives them the go-ahead to post or encourages one or more of the judges to bump the score up or down to get nearer to the average.

  • Up until the 2018 season, the WSL’s Head Judge position was held by Australia’s Richie Porta. This year it’s Australia’s Pritamo Ahrendt.

Screen Shot 2018 12 01 at 12.46.40 PM

Meet your maestro, Pritmo Ahrendt.

The WSL’s Head-Commissioner, Kieren Perrrow, doubled-down on Renato’s defense, explaining that the Head Judge does not interfere with the other judges’ scores. Instead, he creates the daily criteria, evaluates judges’ performance, and develops their skills.

Unsatisfied with this response, the WPS requested to implement a system with audio/video in the judges’ booth, explaining that 27 CT surfers voted Yes on this idea.

According to the notes, Renato Hickel explained that surfers had been invited in the beginning of the year to shadow the judges.

This prompted some of the Women’s CT surfers to relay their experience of the matter, which was that they had tried to shadow the judges earlier this season but were denied. At The Surf Ranch Pro, surfers were also not allowed to shadow the judges.

Surfers continued to voice specific concerns about the judging, including confusion around what type of surfing prevailed – power or progression. They also proposed the idea of bringing observers from other sports to see how surfing is currently judged and how it can be improved.

Despite this, it remains unclear if any changes to the judging will be made in the upcoming 2019 Championship Tour season. 

That’s all for now!



*WPS is a group that advocates for surfers’ rights, essentially like a Surfers’ Union. CT surfers Ace Buchan and Sage Erickson are representatives on the WPS board.


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